In April 2019 the South Downs National Park Authority resolved to grant a further temporary planning permission, for another 6 years, to the Matterley Estate to change the use of approximately 2 square miles of downland from solely agriculture, enabling a music festival and a sports event to be held every year. In so doing they ignored Government advice not to grant more than one temporary planning consent and Government Policy that major development such as this should not be located in National Parks
This new permission will extend a similar 3-year temporary permission granted in 2016. The permission covers over 1,200 acres (over 500 hectares) of open downland and woodland including an SSSI. The site includes the route of the South Downs Way (diverted during festivals).
To see how the Hampshire Chronicle reported the news CLICK HERE The decision now means the site at Matterley Farm in the South Downs National Park, can carry on hosting the annual festival, which has dramatically increased in scale over recent years (last year’s attendance was 65,000 and the new consent gives plenty of room to double that at least) as well as an annual sports event until the end of 2024. The new consent will be in addition to the existing, pre-National Park, consents for an international level motocross circuit, which attracts tens of thousands and a tank-driving course.
On Tuesday 2nd April the House of Lords held a short debate to discuss the benefits of extending the 2026 cut-off date for registration of historic rights of way. Our President, Baroness Maggie Jones, spoke in this debate in support of an extension with a mention of the society, “… as the President of the Friends of the South Downs – which does fantastic work campaigning to protect and preserve the landscape of the South Downs National Park and providing a huge range of guided walks on the footpaths and bridleways.”
“The rights of way network is one of our nation’s greatest assets: it connects people to nature and our rural environment and describes how our ancestors interacted with, and enjoyed, the landscape over centuries.
The Society and Friends of Lewes have jointly issued the following press release under the above title on 12 August 2015:
Two local environmental campaigning groups, Friends of Lewes and the South Downs Society, are joining forces to fight a proposal to build 200 new homes on a greenfield site in the heart of the Ouse Valley between Landport and Malling.
The independent planning inspector, who conducted a public inquiry in January into the latest stage of the local plan covering the whole of Lewes district including that part in the National Park, concluded that the plan would yield insufficient new dwellings to meet local need. He suggested that land at Old Malling Farm in Lewes could be developed to provide more houses. But this is a site already considered – and previously rejected – by the South Downs National Park Authority.
Said Chairman of the Friends of Lewes, Robert Cheesman, “This must be resisted. The designation of the National Park, and the decision to include the town of Lewes within it, was to ensure the protection of our precious landscape, the downland setting of Lewes and its cultural heritage. All of these are seriously threatened by the proposal to build 200 houses on quality farmland at Old Malling Farm which is highly visible as well as having historic associations and archaeological significance.”
Says Steve Ankers, Policy Officer for the South Downs Society, “Both societies want to see more affordable housing available in and around Lewes on brownfield sites but, as the official Friends group for the National Park, we very much share this opposition to any new housing estate at Old Malling Farm. Development there would be a worrying precedent for building on other greenfield sites on the edge of town or elsewhere in the National Park.”
A further round of consultation is taking place between 7 August and 2 October, with a possible reopening of the public inquiry in the autumn to consider comments on this site. While the Societies will be putting forward a strong objection to the 200 houses proposed for Old Malling Farm, it is vital that members of the public make their views known. Details of the proposals are available on Lewes District Council website:
Send in your comments by emailing email@example.com or by post to Lewes Planning Department at Southover House, Lewes.
During debate in parliament on the Infrastructure Bill, the Energy Minister has made it clear this week that the process of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) to extract shale oil and gas has the government’s support but, in response to growing concerns, no licence would be issued in national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty or sites of special scientific interest. The Society has issued a press release welcoming the government’s commitment to safeguarding the national park, while reiterating its concern about possible implications for the wider countryside and climate change. The full text of the press release is as follows:
“The official ‘Friends’ organisation for the South Downs National Park, the South Downs Society, today welcomed a government commitment to keep fracking out of the country’s national parks.
In Monday’s parliamentary debate on the Infrastructure Bill, Energy Minister Amber Rudd told MPs that an existing loophole allowing “unconventional” drilling for shale oil and gas in national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and sites of special scientific interest in “exceptional circumstances” would be closed. The announcement follows widespread opposition to fracking from both national environmental organisations and local communities.
Says South Downs Society Policy Officer Steve Ankers, ‘This is good news for our most treasured landscapes and follows a lot of hard work by groups like ours across the country. Politicians have listened to the justified concerns of their constituents and this shows what can be achieved when people speak out. The South Downs National Park Authority took a strong line last year in refusing planning permission for oil and gas exploration before it could even get to the extraction stage. We and others warmly welcomed that decision at the time and it looks like MPs took notice. There are a lot of environmental unknowns with fracking, in addition to its inevitable contribution to climate change, and government needs to think very hard about its unquestioning support in the rest of the countryside – but at least the ban in national parks announced on Monday is a positive step.'”
The South Downs Society has acted in concert with the other national park societies across the country in urging government to exclude the parks from a possible change in planning law that would allow old farm buildings to become new houses without the need for planning permission.
Below is a link to a press release from the Campaign for National Parks, the umbrella organisation for national park societies, about an open letter sent to the planning minister.